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SHOWDOWN IN GREEN VALLEY

Three of the Republicans hoping to take on Democratic incumbent Gabrielle Giffords in Congressional District 8 met in a debate earlier this week in Green Valley.

GOP candidates Jesse Kelly, Jonathan Paton and Brian Miller vowed to rein in federal spending and bashed Giffords, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.

Kelly questioned Paton's commitment to the illegal-immigration fight—and the sparks really flew at the end of the debate, when Kelly went after Paton as a big-spending Republican.

"This talk of giving up government spending, now that the state is bankrupt because of decisions you made at the state Legislature, simply doesn't wash anymore," said Kelly, citing Paton's support of a legislative budget that increased state spending during the boom years.

Paton defended his vote, saying that the budget also eliminated the state income tax for active-duty military, paid for more law enforcement on the border and set up a system to pay cash for school construction rather than using bonds.

"Jesse, what you're doing is you're accusing me of not being a conservative," Paton said. "And the fact of the matter is, I voted for the budgets I voted for—the ones that you're talking about—because I am conservative. ... And the truth of the matter is, the reason that you keep bringing up my record is because you don't have a record of your own, and that's just too bad."

Kelly shot back: "What's too bad is your record. And you did say something accurate: I am accusing you of not being a conservative."

The audience members appeared to side with Kelly as the debate winner. A post-debate poll showed him with the votes of 78 people in attendance, while 56 liked Paton, and 37 liked Brian Miller. Andy Goss, who was unable to attend, got three votes.

You'll find more details from the debate on The Range, our daily dispatch, at blog.tucsonweekly.com.


SPEAKING OF CONSERVATIVE BONA FIDES ...

Republican Jesse Kelly, one of five Republicans running for the chance to take on Democratic incumbent Gabrielle Giffords in CD8, has won the endorsement of former state lawmaker Randy Graf.

"I think Jesse is the most conservative and the best candidate to run against Giffords in the general election," says Graf.

It was Graf who turned CD8 upside down by first challenging Republican Jim Kolbe in 2004. While Kolbe knocked back Graf's challenge that year, he retired in 2006 rather than seeking a 12th term in Congress.

Graf won the GOP primary that year, but lost the seat to Giffords in the general election, capturing just 42 percent of the vote.

Graf may have lost the general election, but he's set the tone for this year's crop of candidates. With the exception of businessman Jay Quick, the GOP candidates all sound like they're all singing from Randy's songbook.


DUCKING DEBATES

Score one for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Dougherty. The former investigative reporter last week managed to make the putative front-runner, Rodney Glassman, look like he doesn't have the stones to debate his fellow Democrats.

Dougherty laid down a challenge of three debates—one in Tucson, one in Phoenix and one in Flagstaff—to the other Democrats in the race for the Senate seat now held by Republican John McCain. He gave them a deadline of Tuesday, June 8, to respond.

The other two Democrats in the race—former state lawmaker Cathy Eden and labor organizer Randy Parraz—said they were in.

But Glassman didn't reply—which has led to stories in the Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and the Phoenix New Times that make it look like Glassman was avoiding the chance to debate his fellow Democrats.

While the three campaigns are now meeting to work out the debate details, Glassman's team is not involved. Instead, he says his campaign is reviewing debate offers from different organizations.

"You can rest assured that (debates) are going to be occurring, but they're going to be occurring as we move forward," Glassman says.

However, campaign spokesman Blake Morlock says the campaign won't commit to having debates in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, as Dougherty suggested.

Why is Glassman reluctant to commit? He's got the most money; he's got the strongest organization; and he's been in the race the longest. The conventional wisdom is that those factors make him the front-runner, so he's got the most to lose if a debate doesn't go his way.

But he's only the front-runner in a race where most voters don't know anything about the candidates. And it's only the race to decide the Democratic nominee; the primary winner will still be the underdog in a statewide race against McCain (or even against Republican J.D. Hayworth, should he succeed in his challenge against Arizona's senior senator).

By ignoring Dougherty's proposal, Glassman looks like he's scared to debate his opponents. That plays into the other narrative that he has to overcome, which is that he's not ready for the job of U.S. senator.

If Glassman had said yes, he would have shown that he's not afraid to take on any challenge. And the debates would be good for him, anyway, because it would help him hone his skills in front of audiences.

Instead, he's getting stories about how he doesn't have the stones to debate his opponents.

And now, when he does agree to debates (and can he really get away with not debating the others without looking like a wuss?), it'll look like he capitulated to Dougherty.

Glassman shouldn't have ignored Dougherty's proposal. He should have one-upped him and demanded a fourth debate in Yuma.


LOST IN THE SHUFFLE

The Southern Arizona Leadership Council is continuing to pressure the Tucson City Council to put four charter changes on the November ballot that would alter the way Tucson is run.

We're not too upset about the idea of giving the mayor as much power as the other council members or increasing the authority of the city manager. Somebody needs to have the ability to run this town.

But we think the idea of moving city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years is a lousy idea.

Just take a look at this year's election: You've got two congressional races, a governor's race, an attorney general's race and races for the Southern Arizona legislative seats. You've got all the other statewide offices. You've got a bunch of ballot props.

Voters are already overwhelmed. And it's not as if the press has unlimited resources to cover all of these candidates.

Off-year elections may have a lower turnout, but at least the City Council candidates don't get completely lost at the bottom of the ballot.


MEET YOUR DEMOCRATIC AG CANDIDATES

All three Democratic candidates for Arizona attorney general—Vince Rabago, David Lujan and Felecia Rotellini—will be at next week's meeting of the Saguaro Eastside Democrats. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., Monday, June 21, at New Spirit Lutheran Church, 8701 Old Spanish Trail.

Find early and late-breaking Skinny on The Range, our daily dispatch.

Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @nintzel.

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